The Indiana Fever's 91-83 victory over the Chicago Sky set a historic milestone, becoming the most-watched WNBA game on any network in 23 years. According to CBS Sports, via Annie Costabile of Chicago Sun-Times, the telecast averaged 2.25 million viewers, with peak viewership reaching nearly 3 million. The viewership numbers highlight the growing popularity of the league and the role rivalries play in driving viewership.

The game featured three of the top seven picks from April’s WNBA Draft: Caitlin Clark, Kamilla Cardoso and Angel Reese. Clark and Reese, in particular, have been central figures in some of the most-watched women's basketball games in history, including Iowa’s win over LSU in this year’s Elite Eight, which averaged 12.3 million viewers on ESPN. Last year's championship game between LSU and Iowa also drew significant viewership, averaging 9.9 million viewers and peaking at 12.6 million.

According to Sports Media Watch, via Richard Deitsch of The Athletic, Clark and the Fever have participated in each of the five most-viewed WNBA games since 2002, with two of those games being matchups against Chicago.

Fever-Sky game highlighted by on-court intensity

Chicago Sky guard Lindsay Allen (15) attempts to dribble around Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark (22) on Sunday June 16, 2024, during the game. The Fever beat the Sky 91-83.
© Jacob Musselman/ For IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Fever-Sky game on Sunday was notable not only for its viewership but also for its on-court intensity. The game became buzzworthy when Reese hit Clark in the head while attempting a block, leading to a flagrant foul being called after a review. T

“It’s just a part of basketball,” Clark said after the game, via Matthew Byrnes of ClutchPoints. “It is what it is. She was just trying to make a play on the ball and get the block. But yeah, I mean, it happens.”

Despite the foul, Clark maintained her composure and went on to take her free throws. Post-game, she expressed no hard feelings towards Reese, recognizing the competitive nature of the sport.

“It's just the emotion and passion that we play with,” Clark said. “People love to see that. I think that’s maybe not something that was always appreciated in women’s sports and it should be… we’re competitors… it’s going to get physical.”

The previous meeting between the Fever and the Sky, which aired on ESPN, averaged 1.53 million viewers and peaked at 2.19 million. In that game, Chennedy Carter of the Sky committed a flagrant foul on Clark, adding to the budding rivalry between the two teams.

Fever head coach Christie Sides praised her team for maintaining their composure despite the physicality of the game.

“I was really proud of how they all kept their composure,” Sides said. “The right call was made in that moment. Just make the right call in those moments and we can move forward… but when we don’t make the right calls in those moments… that’s when there’s a problem.”

Sides, who spent her first six years as an assistant with the Sky, acknowledged that the rivalry between the Fever and the Sky has been developing for a while.

The Fever and the Sky are set to face off again on June 23 at 4 p.m. ET, a game that will air nationally on ESPN.  With the Sky attempting to snap a three-game losing streak, the stakes were high for both teams.